Bergen County should take a long, hard look at how it runs many of its county high school basketball tournaments to determine if it can better serve the more than 50 schools.
That’s the message delivered by the small-school North Jersey Interscholastic Conference after announcing this week that it will introduce a girls basketball league tournament as an alternative to the Bergen County Women Coaches Association event.
St. Mary athletic director Matt Stone led the drive for a NJIC girls hoops tournament because member schools often serve as nothing more than first-round fodder in the Bergen tournament against teams from the larger Big North Conference.
Stone pointed out that under the Bergen girls tournament’s 32-team format, which pairs No. 1 versus No. 32, No. 2 versus No. 31, etc., almost all of the NJIC schools receive low seeds and suffer first-round blowouts.
“I’m not doing this to try and go against what they’re doing,” Stone said of the BCWCA event.
“I’m just trying to offer something that’s better for the teams in our conference. And if it then creates change to make things better for teams in our conference, or some of the lower-level Big North teams, that’s fine, that’s perfect.”
NJIC officials have broached the subject of offering league tournaments in other sports, and on sub-varsity levels. Stone advised that it would be better to break ground with one tournament and see what happens on the court and beyond.
Bergen tournament organizers may want to follow the model offered for boys basketball: two county tournaments.
If a school is not selected for the prestigious Bergen Jamboree, which traditionally features about 20 to 22 teams, it can compete in the Bergen Invitational Tournament, which accepts about 16 to 18 teams.
The independent BIT was introduced in 2011 by former coach Joe Del Buono, as an alternative for the vast majority of schools not in the Jamboree.
After 17 schools competed in the inaugural BIT, officials from the BCCA recognized its value and welcomed it as an official county event.
“You had to demonstrate that there was a need for the schools that didn’t meet the criteria [for the Jamboree],” Del Buono said.
Just as the BIT demonstrated the need for an alternative to the Jamboree, the NJIC is demonstrating the need to take a long, hard look at many of the Bergen boys and girls county tournaments.